Saturday, November 26, 2011

doing with out is a good thing, right?

“Celebrating Advent means being able to wait. … Whoever does not know the austere blessedness of waiting - that is, of hopefully doing without - will never experience the full blessing of fulfillment.” ~ Dietrich Bonhoeffer

Here we are, on the eve of advent season, and once again Bonhoeffer's words haunt me.  I am a child of our culture.  I personally don't like doing without much of anything!  Trust me, I have plenty of food, way too many clothes and let's not get started talking about all of my books....

And yet, Bonhoeffer invites me - invites all of us - to wait.  And not just wait, but to consider that waiting is a blessing - and to wait (and do without that thing we desire most) hope-fully.  Talk about counter-cultural!  I do see his point.  If we rush through the next 29 days, if we consume and consume and don't exercise moderation in our lives, if we don't w a i t  for it - then whats the point?  We will never experience the blessedness of fulfillment if we can have all that our hearts desire instantaneously.

And so I wait.  We wait.  We wait expectantly, hopefully, and we don't wait for stuff.  Waiting gives our minds time to clear.  Waiting takes practice and is best done along with the spiritual disciplines of prayer, scripture reading, worship, Holy Communion and yes even fasting.  These practices allow us to start to see the world through 'God shaped lenses'...its actually pretty amazing to realize that with practice we get to see the world as God sees.  And if we are gentle to ourselves and to others we see how blessed we already are, how God moves and breathes and gives life meaning and we learn to hope again.  

Psalm 131 speaks to this kind of hopeful waiting 

God, I'm not trying to rule the roost, I don't want to be king of the mountain. 
I haven't meddled where I have no business or fantasized grandiose plans. 

I've kept my feet on the ground, I've cultivated a quiet heart. 
Like a baby content in its mother's arms, 
my soul is a baby content. 

Wait, Israel, for God. Wait with hope. 
Hope now; hope always!   (The Message translation)

And so this is my hope for Advent this year.  That we may find peace, hope, joy and love as we wait hopefully throughout this Advent season.

in Christ, together

Paul writes in his letter to Romans (Romans 15:12-13)

Isaiah says, “The Root of Jesse will spring up,
one who will arise to rule over the nations; in him the Gentiles will hope.”  
May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, 
so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit.


Sunday, November 20, 2011

what have I done now?

It starts innocently enough - a simple envelope with a membership card included - well, it's actually a temporary membership card - and the first few times I ignored it simply because AARP was emblazoned on the front.

Yep, I started getting my invitations just days before my (gulp) 50th birthday in June.  And every few weeks since a new 'temporary membership card' arrived in the mail.  Being more mature now, it wasn't long till I started comparing my AAA benefits with AARP.   Did you know that AARP has a better hotel discount than AAA???  Go figure!

So, a couple of weeks ago, I paid my $16 dues and am now a card carrying member of AARP.  Why not, right?

In addition to discounts of all sorts membership benefits include email newsletters with helpful tips and information for a better life for us older folks.  But I'm not sure what to think of the latest newsletter.  It's this headline that has me disturbed, quite frankly:  "13 Little Luxuries We Deserve Now That We're Over 50"  It's enough to make me wonder if I should cancel my membership right away!!

I don't know about you, but I didn't know that I deserve much of anything just for turning a year older.  I fear this is another example of what's wrong with our culture.  The article promises, "Big satisfaction for small expenditure, and small guilt!" hmmm, that sure sounds nice, but just because I am over 50?!?!

Should I really care about real maple syrup (at $100/gallon) and weekly manicures, numbers 4 and 7 on the AAPR list, as luxuries I now deserve when I see broken and hurting people each and every day?  I think that if I have enough money to pay for real Hawaiian ginger or a six-pack of massage certificates then I should be tithing to my church at the very least and investing my time and talent in mentoring and volunteering too!

I'm not sure if I'll keep the AARP card -  I don't really like the warped perspective its giving me about ageing in the 21st Century.  Seems pretty immature and shallow to me, but what do I know?


Wednesday, November 2, 2011

God's mysterious ways

I was raised in the United Methodist Church.

When I went to college I just didn't have time to go to church.

I moved.  Started a career.

Dealt with my mom's death without the church.  It wasn't perfect, but it was ok - I wasn't angry with God.  I just learned that life is fragile and sometimes people get sick and sometimes they don't make it - no matter how much they or you pray.

I got married in my back yard with a retired pastor officiating for $35.  The local United Methodist church said they couldn't do it since we weren't members.  They suggested we call Rev. Fite instead.

And yet, when my first born child was 1 1/2 I knew, like a homing pigeon, that I needed to be in a church.  The fact that my stepson, who was 14, had recently moved in with us helped as well.  For some odd reason I figured that the only place I could learn about how to raise a 14 year old was in the church.  (btw: I went to the church that had said no to the wedding 3 years earlier.)

One Sunday not too long after I started attending the pastor did his normal altar call after the sermon and for some reason as we stood up to sing the final hymn I felt compelled to go forward.  I have no idea what the pastor said that morning, but the hymn was "Stand Up, Stand Up for Jesus"

I remember the surprised look on his face, the questions he asked as the congregation continued to sing; he wanted to know my name, if I had ever been baptized (I had as an infant) and if I wanted to join the church right then by profession of faith.  Through my tears I said, "yes."

Afterwards I can't say that I felt a whole lot different, but I sure was welcomed by folks.  That church showed me and my children radical hospitality.  It was later that I figured out that it has been a long, long time since anyone had come up and joined without pre-arranging things with the church staff.  But there I was  - a newly minted member of Mountain Park United Methodist Church in Stone Mountain, Georgia.  I had always figured I was a Christian, but now I was a member.

I joined a Sunday School class - I intentionally chose the one with folks who had kids my stepson's age.  For the next couple of years, until we moved, we attended worship on Sundays and participated in the life of the church.  No committees, not many expectations.  My husband was angry at God at the time and was not interested in church, so the children weren't baptized.  I was ok with that because no one pressured me to do otherwise.

When number 2 child, Hannah, was born I remember some people from the church stopping by to bring us some meals.  The very best thing was the strawberry jello with lots of real strawberries in it.  Funny, the things you remember.

It was in my Sunday School class that I learned that Jesus was God.  The whole Trinity had escaped me until that time.  I'm not sure if I wasn't listening, or if I just missed it along the way.  Probably a little bit of both.  I was 30 years old.

12 years, 2 more children and three moves (and 3 churches) later, I was in seminary.

God sure does have a sense of humor.

On this All Saints Day, I can't help but think of the Saints in my life.  Many of whom I don't even remember their names.  Go figure.  I hope that one day we can renew acquaintances and reflect on the various places God has taken us.  Actually, I count on this to be true.  The communion of saints and feasting at the heavenly banquet all sound pretty wonderful to me.

A facebook friend asked earlier this evening; "Have you ever wondered, in the quiet moments, if what you give your life to---time, energy, heart, soul---really matters or makes any measurable difference?"

Yes, I have...

I think God is ok with me asking such questions.  And yet, I don't really know how to respond to her apparent angst.  Except with my story.

 And so I carry on, serving our Triune God - Father, Son and Holy Spirit - the best way I know how.  By the grace of God someone's life may be a little better.  Who knows?  And even if I never know -  I am ok with that...most days.

in Christ, together